The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) has approved its version of a food safety bill. The bill approved was a chairman’s mark of a bill authored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) that corrected a number of technical issues and made some positive changes, including clarifying compliance with international trade obligations.

At the committee mark-up, over 12 other amendments were offered and withdrawn with an agreement to work on them prior to a floor vote. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) offered three amendments related to performance standards, confidentiality and jurisdiction.

Like its House companion passed in July, the Senate bill S. 510 would grant the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to oversee everything from food production and processing to distribution and retail and to ensure that imported food meets U.S. safety standards.

The Senate version is preferred by NAWG and some other agricultural organizations because it is more science-based and it has been considered on a bipartisan basis. While most major obstacles have been removed, timing is dependent on the health care debate, which will likely push any floor action into next year.

NAWG and coalition partners have been closely watching the legislative process on this issue, which has gained traction due to a number of high-profile food safety scares in recent years. The NAWG staff will continue work with Congress and other agriculture groups to monitor the bill and ensure that it remains science- and risk-based as it moves toward a floor vote.